Lions roar into second week with title in their sights

Dewi Preece
Source: 1 NEWS

For third-year Wellington Lions captain Du’Plessis Kirifi, it’s pretty simple.

“We're here to win a championship bro, that's it.”

Their last top-flight title was back in 2000, and have lost eight grand finals since. But Kirifi is confident this time it’s different.

“If we look back on the last couple of years, we haven’t been as consistent, or physical as we’ve wanted to be.” 

And a 54-7 drubbing of Northland in week one at least suggest this team is on to prove a point.

“All respect to Northland, but they weren't the challenge we were thinking they'd be. We're not getting carried away with ourselves just because we scored 54 points.”

A sentiment echoed by coach Leo Crowley.

“It was a good start for us, but when you've been so far off the pace in the first game the last two years, we wanted to make a statement.”

Compared to 2019 (8-45 loss to Tasman) and 2020 (28-53 loss to Waikato) making a statement in week one was the easy part, especially with the experience of All Blacks TJ Perenara and Asafo Aumua in the side.

“Just the amount of knowledge they bring into the group, everyone gets empowered,” Cowley said.

But that’s a luxury they don’t have against Waikato this weekend, as well as missing first-choice prop Xavier Numia who’s out with concussion.

Numia’s the only enforced injury change, but potentially a crucial one against a physical Mooloo’s pack.

But in Dominic Bird (2.06m) the Lions think they have a new, rather unmissable trick up their sleeve.

“Dom adds so much more than the fact he's over 2 metres,” Kirifi said.

“He walks through those gates and just does everything he can to help the team. I just look up to the guy and he inspires me to be better every day.

“I feel like in the past years we've had a missing piece of the puzzle. And he's definitely helped us fill one of those holes.”

A hole that might finally end Wellington’s 21-year top-flight drought.